Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Richard Bausch _Peace_ Knopf

Richard Bausch's novel Peace exemplifies master storytelling.

Set during the Second World War, after the Italians have quit fighting and the Germans are apparently retreating, Corporal Marson, along with soldiers Asch and Joyner, bear witness to murder. This inciting incident in the novel haunts the characters; it tests and hollows them as they grapple with what it means for them not to have tried to stop it and not to have immediately reported it.

The rise, climax, and resolution of the novel concern Marson, Asch, and Joyner following an Italian civilian, whose wagon they dumped into the rain and who agrees to lead them up a hill, ostensibly for fear of being shot. The hill soon becomes a mountain, and the incessant rain becomes snow. With readers privy to Marson's point of view, the Italian guide sometimes reveals gestures and facial expressions that contradict his actions and call into question every word and action from him as he leads the Americans higher and higher--until they come upon a hill overlooking the Italian's town, where war-crime executions are taking place.

Betrayal, and Marson's loss and then redemption of a sense of essential humanness, follow.

Throughout, Bausch conveys characters masterfully. This is an example of one whole, perfect form of a novel, and Peace is an essential work concerning WWII.


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